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  • Joseph P. Goodwin (1952–2015)
  • Jan Rosenberg

On November 16, 2015, folklore studies lost a dear friend, colleague, and mentor, Joseph ("Joe") P. Goodwin. Born and raised in Huntsville, Alabama, in 1952, he was the eighth child of William Percy and Mary (Bitnell) Goodwin. As a child, Joe was no stranger to community and cultural diversity. He often spoke to me of his German playmates whose parents were involved with space-age technology. He attended Huntsville schools and the University of Alabama, where he received a BA in English. Joe was introduced to folklore studies as an undergraduate under the tutelage of Beatrice Kane [End Page 353] McLain and in fact enjoyed the company of three other future folklorists: Deborah Boykin, John Bealle, and Carolyn Lipson-Walker.

Joe is best known for his work in the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community. His Indiana University PhD dissertation, "More Man Than You'll Ever Be: Gay Folklore and Acculturation in Middle America" (1984), remains a classic ethnography of gay life in a college community setting. The dissertation was refined into a book of the same title, and as it reached into a greater mainstream readership, the book, like the dissertation, remains a groundbreaking volume that encourages others to bravely pursue this topic as they know and understand it (1989).

Joe, along with colleagues Judy Levin and Polly Stewart, established the LGBT Section of the American Folklore Society in 1988. Along with colleagues Mickey Weems and Polly Stewart, he was on the editorial board of The Encyclopedia of Gay Folklife, an online reference tool. As part of the Qualia conference on LGBT folklore in Columbus, Ohio, an award for works combining performance and scholarship in LGBT studies, the "Po-Jo" Award, was named in honor of Joe and Polly.

Joe had many academic and social interests: he, along with folklorist Inta Gale Carpenter, developed an oral history instrument for folklorists. He was a "foodie" discovering and savoring the cultural and gustatory intricacies of culinary culture from around the world. Joe loved poetry and would often recite verse from memory. He also enjoyed wordplay, which he was able to explore in linguistics classes at Indiana University. As a Folklore graduate student, he served as editorial assistant to Linda Dégh for the journal Indiana Folklore. But there was one thing that guided Joe through all of his academic work, and that was the genealogy of folklore studies, beginning with the Brothers Grimm and following through with the Harvard College folklorists: Francis James Child, George Lyman Kitteridge, and John A. Lomax.

Joe felt deeply that he would always be a folklorist, and this carried over into his job as a counselor at the Career Center for students and teachers at Ball State University. As a result of his folklore training, Joe could guide and intuit the needs of the Center's clientele, sensitively but not necessarily gravely. His work involved the whole person, rather than just a test score or report card.

He was a sweet spirit, called upon by his friends and colleagues alike for personal and professional counsel. I was very fortunate to seek and receive his advice on my research and writing; he would listen to me read parts of my writings over the phone. Actually, for the past four years, Joe and I talked on the phone every day. We would talk about my work, and I would gratefully listen to his professional and personal thoughts on his work. Our conversations covered an incredible array of topics, but we would always return to our mutual passion for folklore and folklore studies. He will be sorely missed. [End Page 354]

Jan Rosenberg
Heritage Education Resources, Inc.


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